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When Arnab Goswami quit the Times News Network, it was an immediate disaster. Because he had made it a one-man show. Period. At least on Times NOW, there was nobody else. No second face. No second voice except his, delivering every thought and ‘conversation’ in a high-pitched talk-down-to manner, but that was his style, and God knows it worked superbly if TVRs were the only yardstick to judge things by. And then, of course, he quit, and there was a hole not in the FPC, as is the parlance for a suddenly missing series on a channel. No, there was a hole on Times NOW itself. The channel had lost the only face on its promos and other collateral. Which had the leadership team do a quick rethink on the lines that many observers and consumers of news on television had been voicing.
MK Anand and his leadership team apparently quickly went about bringing the rest of the editorial leadership team out of the anonymity they had been languishing in, and back into their rightful place – face to face with the viewers, through promos that showcased the editorial heads across their fields of specialization, and also the senior correspondents who keep contributing to the ever refreshed content pipeline. Suddenly, Times NOW began to showcase the width and depth of its editorial resources.
It’s been more than a painstaking year since it began, and very organically, the ratings too crept up. Republic TV, which had run — galloped — away from leader Times NOW with a phenomenal spike in the ratings that it maintained for a year, finally saw Times NOW catch up, and, in Week 31 of this year per BARC data, even beat it. And through that long, organic process, Times NOW has demonstrated that there is a very good place for dignity and conversation, which can more than match up to passionate shouting and yelling; sure, the latter bespeaks a missionary viewpoint, and one’s heart warmed with an angry patriotism when one first heard an obviously nationalistically partisan politician dismissed with the furious advice to ‘migrate to Pakistan, then!’. But wait. He kept inviting them back on the show, again and again… the very same elements he had denounced as anti-national, for more shouting sessions. So what was that missionary zeal for? Your guess is as good as mine.
Anyway, it’s taken Times NOW solid persistence with its excellent approach of showcasing the width and depth of its editorial resources. That approach has found acceptance and favour with the viewers, and it should be made into a case study for every institute of journalism and media on how to build a news brand, the kind of, well, presentation of electronic journalism that resonates — sans the ear-piercing decibels — with evolved audiences.
Confront. Debates with decorum
Taking that thought further, Times NOW has launched a special programme, ‘Confront’ with Editor-in-Chief Rahul Shivshankar. Ouch. Confront? And coming in from that long intro about restraint in delivery? Well, yes. Because you can confront without yelling, and this show, says a company release, will converse without getting to (ugly) debates.
On the 2nd episode of CONFRONT with @RShivshankar, Can India trust Imran Khan. Ex-foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal confronts Author Sudheendra Kulkarni. Who won this round?
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) August 18, 2018
So ‘Confront’ is an hour-long weekend show that will, as do most news channel shows, have a set format. This one will feature two ‘prominent panelists debate on social and political topics including State issues, economy, elections and the like with a conclusive end to the discussion. Rahul Shivshankar will conduct the ‘well-researched debate with decorum, focused to provide the viewers with clear, insightful information’.
Key words: Decorum; clear; insightful; conclusive end. Interesting and important, because none of those terms could have had a snowball’s chance in hell if this too were to have been a shouting-slanging-vilification test of sheer misplaced emotions and indestructible vocal chords.
One hopes this tone and tenor finds its way into the 9 pm slot weekdays too.
It’s a clear shift from the loud, contentious debates in which panelists often talked at rather than spoke with one another. There are two panelists conversing, discussing, debating, with Rahul playing enabler and, when he has to, gentle provocateur, if you will.
So far, Confront has featured people like Jay Panda – Former Member of Parliament; Yogendra Yadav – National President, Swaraj India; Sudheendra Kulkarni – Politician, and Kanwal Sibal – Former Foreign Secretary.
The episode on Saturday, August 25, will feature Mukul Rohtagi – Former Attorney General of India and Mohan Parasaran – Former Solicitor General of India, who will discuss claims that the NDA is meddling in judicial affairs.
The approach has been winning praise online.
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) August 12, 2018
@TimesNow #EconomyDebate It was a pleasant surprise to watch a very nice debate between @Jaypanda4CM & @_YogendraYadav on #Confront.
Nicely moderated by @RShivshankar.
Wish more such debates on various channels take place. @republic, @ndtv & others to pl note.
— Bipin Vengsarkar (@bipinveng) August 11, 2018
Shivshankar says Confront has been launched with ‘a clear objective to provide conclusive facts and information out of the confronting conversations. The show breaks away from the typical debate formats, which leave little room for conversations, where the viewers are left with no answers to the burning social issues. Through this show, we aim to provide uninterrupted, transparent and healthy discussions to burning issues that need to be addressed on priority.”
Watch Confront, on Saturdays at 12 noon and 8 PM, and Sundays at 10 PM, on Times NOW.